Clinton announces $10 million in Thailand flood relief aid, Bangkok distracted by politics

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced a $10 million aid package for Thailand flood relief during a visit to Bangkok Wednesday.

Apichart Weerawong/AP
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a joint news conference with Thailand's Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra at the government house in Bangkok, Thailand, on Nov. 16. Clinton is on a two-day visit to Thailand.

Both US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon paid visits to Bangkok today as a fierce political debate threatens to destabilize the flood-ravaged country.

Mrs. Clinton announced more than $10 million in extra flood relief assistance, telling media in Bangkok that she “admired the resilience of the Thai government and people.”

Areas of the capital, Bangkok, are still under water almost four months after the Thailand's worst-ever floods grabbed headlines worldwide. The official death toll is now at 564, and several neighborhoods of Bangkok were today ordered to evacuate as water slowly drains through Bangkok toward the sea. 

The night before the high profile arrivals, however, the Thai government discussed an official pardon for some 26,000 felons, possibly including fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a September 2006 coup and faces two years jail time for corruption in office.

The mere hint of his return to Thailand has riled the country's opposition.

The pardon was discussed by the Thai cabinet on Tuesday and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra – Thaksin's younger sister – will present the country's King Bhumibol Adulyadej with a list of names for pardon to mark the monarch's 84th birthday on Dec. 5.

While the focus of the Clinton visit was on the disaster and on the upcoming Asia-Pacific summit meetings in Bali, Indonesia, the pardon eventually came up.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra sidestepped the issue, however, reminding journalists that she wasn't present when the pardon was discussed and suggested that the matter was in the hands, for now, of Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubumrung.

Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva said today that any move to pardon Thaksin would undermine the rule of law in Thailand. He is expected to take up the issue in parliament.

Clinton made no comment on the pardon issue, but praised the work of the truth and reconciliation body set up by the former Thai government to investigate the Thaksin-backed "redshirt" street protests that turned ugly in 2010, killing 91 people.

The latest pardon attempt increases the possibility of new protests in the country.

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